Populist politicians can quickly become demagogues, infatuated with their own importance because of the adulation they receive from an audience which is being told what it wants to hear.
Julius Malema’s adoring fans in South Africa are lapping up his firebrand speeches, perhaps because he is saying the things they have been secretly wanting to say for years. And that’s why one cannot simply dismiss the EFF leader as a rabble-rouser.
Malema’s rhetoric taps into centuries of bitterness and resentment among black people about white colonialism – about the loss of their land and what they perceive as their sovereignty in the country of their birth. Even today, 24 years after the end of apartheid and the advent of democracy, many people in this country are still angry and dissatisfied.
The fact that the ANC government has failed to deliver on promises is a subtlety many refuse to acknowledge as they channel their anger in a race-based direction.
Because of all those reasons for the present volatile social climate in our country – whether or not you agree with all of them – it is incumbent on all political leaders to exercise the greatest caution.
Malema, clearly, does not care about the passions he is inflaming with his racist promises to “cut the throat” of the DA and to rid the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality of mayor Athol Trollip, simply because he is white.
In lowering his arguments to such base levels, Malema is revealing much of his true nature as not only a populist, but as an untrustworthy political opportunist who has loyalty only to his own belief that he is the man who will transform South Africa into a paradise for black people.
Robert Mugabe tried that. Malema should learn from that history, otherwise it will repeat itself in this country.